HL Deb 26 June 1900 vol 84 cc1031-44

My Lords, before I endeavour to explain the provisions of the Bill which I shall ask leave to introduce, it may be desirable that I should say something on the subject of the steps that have been taken under the Board of Education Bill which was passed last year, in order that the House may see under what central organisation the local authorities proposed to be constituted by this Bill will have to act. The main object of the Board of Education Bill was to unite in one office the two Educational Departments which previously existed under the names of the Education Office and the Science and Art Department, and at the same time to bring under the administration of the newly-constituted board some of the duties which had hitherto been discharged by the Charity Commissioners and, to a minor degree, some of the duties of the Board of Agriculture. Last year I said that a Departmental Committee had been appointed to inquire into the changes in the staff and organisation of the Education and Science and Art Departments which would be necessary in order to establish closer relations between them. That Committee consisted of Sir H. Walpole, chairman, Sir G. Kekewich, Sir W. Abney, Mr. S. Spring-Rice and Mr. Tucker, and Mr. Fearon, secretary of the Charity Commission, was subsequently added. It will not be necessary for me. I think to refer in detail to any of the recommendations of that Committee. Their labours have been of great value, and I am greatly indebted to them for the thorough examination they have made into all the arrangements of the Departments and for the labour which they have-bestowed in making their inquiries. Many of their recommendations have been, or are being, carried into effect, and I have no doubt that they will greatly tend to simplify the work and increase the efficiency of the administration of the office. There was one point, however, which could not be relegated to any Committee, however ably constituted. Your Lordships may remember that on the Bill of last year some discussion took place upon the future organisation of the Education Department. I thought at the time, and I am still more strongly of opinion now, that that discussion was some what premature. It proceeded on the assumption that the organisation of the new office would continue on the same lines as those which had existed when the educational Departments were separate and distinct, and that there would be in the now office two divisions, one of which would correspond with and carry on the work of the old Education Office in connection with elementary education, and the other of which would carry on the work of the Science and Art Department. An apprehension, perhaps not altogether unreasonable, was felt on the part of the secondary schools and those responsible for their management that the new powers which were conferred by the Act upon the Board of Education would be simply transferred to one or other of these divisions, and that they would be administered in accordance with the traditions which had for many years grown up and become established in both Departments. It was urged that a third division should be constituted to which the administration of secondary schools, so far as they came under the control of the new board, should be entrusted. I gave at that time an undertaking that, in framing the organisation of the new Department, I would have in view a triple rather than a dual division. I have said that I considered that the discussion was somewhat premature, and I have also to acknowledge that I think the undertaking or understanding which I then indicated was somewhat imprudent on my part. At all events, I have not been able to adhere to it literally, but I have endeavoured to adhere to it in spirit. That I intended to adhere to it literally is proved by the fact that, in the supplementary instructions given to the Committee, they were expressly directed to have regard to the undertaking of the Government to establish a third branch of the Education Office to deal with secondary education. In order to explain the reasons which have induced me to modify my views on this subject I must refer shortly to the relations which have hitherto existed between the old Education Department and the secondary schools and those which might be expected to grow up under the Act, and consider the nature of the work which could with advantage be transferred to the third division. The training colleges which have been subsidised and administered by the Education Department are in the nature of secondary schools, and it is quite possible that in time, when the unification of offices has been brought nearer completion, it may be possible to recognise them as secondary schools, and to regard their administration as a portion of secondary educational work. The training colleges are so closely connected with elementary schools that their administration must, for the present, remain as it is, and no change in respect to that administration can be carried out without a great deal of further consideration. Then, again, the high grade elementary schools which have been established by many school boards give an instruction which in many respects differs very little from secondary instruction. Some day it may be possible to draw a line of demarcation, which does not exist at present, between that education which is recognised as elementary, which is aided as elementary education by the State, and which may legitimately be provided by school boards or Voluntary school managers, and that recognised as secondary, which ought to be administered by other local authorities than school boards. A step has been taken towards drawing that line of demarcation by a Minute recently issued establishing higher elementary schools. But a great deal remains to be done before this line can be definitely drawn; and while many may be of opinion that the school boards have, in a great many cases, trespassed too far on the domain of secondary education, and while the Department may be considered to have been too lax in permitting such trespasses, there are, it must be admitted, great excuses for such encroachment, owing to the fact that the Legislature has never, up to the present time, provided anything in the nature of local secondary education authorities, and that school board work has been a work which could, in the present state of the law, not be done by anyone else. This is a deficiency which I hope the Bill I now ask leave to introduce may to some extent remedy. But until some such measure is passed, and the line I have referred to has been definitely drawn, it would be extremely inexpedient to attempt to place school boards under dual administration in respect of elementary work and that part of it which may more properly be considered to be of a secondary character. These to which I have referred are forms of secondary education with which the old Education Department has been connected, and in my opinion it would be undesirable, if it were not impossible, that the connection between the Elementary branch of the Office and these forms of education should be summarily severed. There are, however, other forms of 'secondary education with which the Science and Art Department has already established relations. By a scheme of examination and a grant depending on those examinations, it has influenced the course of education in a largo number of secondary schools, it has also established more direct relations, not only with detached classes and courses of lectures, but with schools which, under the name of schools of science, have been subsidised, or in many cases almost wholly maintained, by grants from the Science and Art Department. The most important work in respect of secondary education which may at present devolve on the Board will be the development of these schools of science. They are institutions which have been founded under the guidance and with the assistance of the late Science and Art Department. They have been founded by county councils, or, in large towns, by borough councils. Or, again, they are in many cases endowed schools existing under schemes of the Charity Commissioners, the governing bodies of which have brought their schools into connection with, and have been receiving subsidies from, the Science and Art Department. The relations between these schools and the scientific experts of the late Science and Art Department cannot be broken off, and must remain practically under the administration of the same persons, although, perhaps, under a somewhat different organisation. My Lords, I have given a brief, but, I am afraid, imperfect statement of the existing relations between the Education Department and secondary schools. The Act of last year, however, provides for the extension of those relations. It provides for the eventual transfer to the Board of Education of all the powers of the Charity Commission. It has been considered expedient, however, that this transfer should be gradual and tentative. The Order in Council now on the Table of the House is the first instalment of such transfer. The terms of that Order are necessarily extremely technical, and I do not know that it is necessary that I should attempt on this occasion to explain them in detail. I may say, however, that the first clause applies to England and Wales generally, and enables the Education Board to exercise, concurrently with the Charity Com- missioners, their powers of administration and inspection. That is a power which it was necessary the Board of Education should have, to enable them to make complete and effectual the educational inspection of such schools as might desire to place themselves in connection with the Board. The second clause makes a more complete transfer. It transfers, with certain exceptions, the powers at present exercised by the Charity Commissioners with regard to educational endowments regulated by schemes within the area of Wales and Monmouthshire. This is an area in which jurisdiction over educational endowments could be easily transferred without prejudice to continued temporary jurisdiction over similar endowments in England. Owing to the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, Wales already possesses a local organisation for secondary education, with whom the central authority will at once enter into relations, whereas in England such bodies have still to be created; and the experience gained by the Board in dealing with a limited area would prepare it for exercising similar powers throughout the country. The result of this review of the work, present and prospective, of the Board of Education in connection with secondary education was to convince us that little could be transferred from the control of the officials now engaged in its-administration to a third division. The duties of such a division would in the main be limited to the new work which would devolve on the Board under the Act of last year. It appeared to be scarcely worth while to create a new division solely for the purpose of work taken over from the Charity Commissioners, or for inspection of older secondary schools wishing to bring themselves into connection with the Board and submit to its examinations. It is probable that the great majority of these desire to enter into such connection on account of the impulse which may thereby be given to the newer order of studies, and the division charged with their inspection would have to rely mainly on the assistance of the scientific experts who would be connected with the other divisions of the Department. At the same time the schoolmasters and those who are engaged in the management of secondary schools appear to some extent to have modified their own views. Not very long ago I received an important deputation in which the University of Oxford, the Headmasters' Conference, and the Headmasters' Association were represented, and their object was to urge that in the organisation of the office no hard-and-fast line ought to be drawn between the literary and scientific sides of instruction and the inspection of literary and scientific instruction. They did not, I admit, altogether abandon the position which was taken up by the school authorities last year, but they appeared to be conscious that the representations they were then putting forward were not altogether consistent with the position they had taken up last year. The deputation also strongly urged that a separation should be made between what is termed technology and literary or scientific instruction. This view is one which is also strongly held by those who have been chiefly associated in the promotion of technological study. The City and Guilds of London Institute, for instance, have urged upon the Department that the distinctive difference between the teaching of science as a part of general education and the teaching of science in its application to special industries ought to be recognised, and that the office ought to be arranged with this distinction in view. For the reasons which I have endeavoured to indicate, we now propose to revert to a dual organisation of the office, but not entirely upon the lines of the late Education and Science and Art Departments. The principal officers of the Department which we propose will be a principal permanent secretary, who will supervise generally the whole work of the Department. It must be remembered, when special importance is attached to this or that minor subordinate appointment, that it will be the permanent secretary who will be responsible to the President of the Board for the administration of the whole Department, and that it is impossible, and would be undesirable even if it were possible, that the office should be divided into what I may call water-tight compartments, the head of each of which would be charged with special duties and no other, and that the idea should be entertained that the work of the office should be carried on in separate departments, which should have no connection or relation with each other. We propose that under the principal permanent secretary there shall be two principal assistant secretaries—one mainly charged with duties in connection with elementary, and the other with secondary, education. We propose to abolish the name "Science and Art Department." The Science and Art Department will be merged in the secondary education branch of the office. As soon as it may be possible we propose to transfer the greater part of the staff of the late Science and Art Department from South Kensington to Whitehall, except such part of it as it may be necessary to leave at South Kensington for the administration of the museum and the colleges of science and art. In place of the third division that was contemplated, we now propose to give the principal assistant secretary of secondary education two additional assistant secretaries, one of whom will be chiefly charged with the supervision and control of literary instruction, and the other of technological study. This is not the organisation, I admit, to which I partly committed myself last year; but I trust that it may, in substance, meet the views, especially the later views, which have been expressed to me by high educational authorities. With the name we hope to get rid of many of the traditions which were supposed to attach to the old Science and Art Department—traditions which have, I believe, been regarded as opposed to the true interests of education by many of those who have been responsible for the management of the older endowed schools. The original idea of the Science and Art Department was, or at all events was supposed to be, that by means of lectures, classes, and examinations a knowledge of the principles of science and art, which would be valuable to the students themselves and to the nation at large, could be engrafted upon almost any kind of previous elementary or secondary training. It is quite true that this idea has been in recent years very largely modified, but I do not think that it is yet generally known how far the original traditions of the Science and Art Department have been already departed from. We hope and intend that the idea of the future education branch of the office will be to make science and art instruction a part of general education in addition to those classical and literary studies which have hitherto formed its main portion. In the schools and institutions directly assisted by the Board of Education the teaching of science and of art, with the addition, perhaps, of some commercial subjects, will probably remain the principal object. But, on the other hand, in those secondary schools, whether of older or more modern type, which desire to enter into connection with the Board there ought not to be, and there need not be, any interference with the older classical and literary studies so long as there continues to be a demand for them. At the same time, we hope that the scientific resources of the Board will be placed at their disposal if they desire, as many of them do desire, to develop the more modern sides of instruction and education. If I may put the case in another way, I conceive that the apprehension that was felt and given expression to last year was that the tendency to interference by the Education Department with secondary teaching would be in the direction of substituting scientific for classical studies, and next that scientific studies would only be regarded from the point of view of their commercial value. As I have said, it probably will be the case that any interposition of the Board in regard to secondary education will be in the direction of endeavouring to substitute more modern for the older studies, but it ought not to be difficult to find administrators of sufficiently wide knowledge and experience to make the latter result impossible. In connection with this point it may be of interest to the House to know what are the principal appointments which have been made or are proposed to be made in the principal office of the new secondary education branch of the department. Sir George Kekewich, the late secretary of the Board of Education, has become the permanent principal secretary of the new Board, and it is he who will be responsible to the President of the Board and to the Government for the administration of the Department as a whole. The principal assistant secretary for secondary education will be Sir William Abney, who has done more than any other man in extending the studies of the schools of science under the Science and Art Department. Under him the assistant secretary, who will be chiefly concerned with the literary side of instruction, will be Mr. Bruce, an Assistant Commissioner to the Charity Commission under the Endowed Schools Act, who has been chiefly engaged and has obtained much experience in the administration of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act. The assistant secretary for technological study has not yet been appointed. I come now to a brief statement of the objects of the Bill which I am asking leave to introduce. I will defer any explanation of detail until the text of the Bill is before your Lordships; but the Bill is based on foundations that already exist, and indeed it contains very little beyond the proposals which were contained in the Bill of 1896, so far as that Bill related to secondary education. Local authorities already exist under the Technical Instruction Act of 1889 and the Local Taxation Act of 1890, with limited powers of aiding and supervising technical and manual instruction as a part of secondary education. Those authorities are county councils, county borough councils, the councils of non-county boroughs, and urban district councils. The resources which they possess are the proceeds of a penny rate and a sum derived from the local taxation account, which now amounts to over £800,000 a year. The county councils and the county boroughs are alone the recipients of the sums derived from the local taxation fund. The Bill proposes to extend these existing foundations. In the first place it will make the application of the local taxation money to educational purposes compulsory instead of optional, as it is at present. It will enable the authority to apply both that fund and the rates to the purposes of secondary education generally, not limited to technical or manual instruction. It will, however, require that this shall only be done after adequate provision has been made for technical instruction; and in order not to bring about any sudden change or disruption in the work that has already been going on the authorities will be instructed to have regard to the existing application of the funds to educational purposes. It has been necessary to decide to what authorities acting in what areas the extended powers are to be given. We propose to follow the precedent of the Local Taxation Act, 1890, of the Bill of 1896, and the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education, and to entrust these extended powers to county councils and county borough councils, only leaving to the minor authorities the powers which they already enjoy under the Technical Instruction Act. There is nothing in this provision that will prevent the constitution of authorities for other areas, either greater or smaller, if they should be found to be more convenient for educational purposes. The Bill proposes to constitute the education committees which already exist upon a more formal and recognised basis. Suggestions have been made that provision ought to be made in the Bill for the representation on those educational committees of the councils of non-county boroughs and of urban districts, and that the Bill should contain provisions for the representation on the education committees of school boards or other educational interests within the area. We consider, however, that the circumstances of the different districts in the country are so various that to include any provisions of this kind in the Bill which would be applicable alike to all parts of the country would be impracticable, and we thought the difficulty might be bettor solved by providing that these education committees shall be framed by schemes to be submitted to and approved by the Board of Education. The schemes may provide for the constitution of joint committees for areas in more than one county or county borough; or, on the other hand, by the words which are inserted in the Bill "or any part thereof" it is intended to indicate that either by means of sub-committees or otherwise provisions may be made for the management of any smaller area than that of a county or county borough. Under the existing law county councils and urban authorities have each the power to levy a penny rate, and it follows that in some districts which are subject to each authority a rate of twopence may at present be levied for the purposes of technical instruction. The Bill will propose to raise the rating limit to two-pence in all cases, but in no case shall the rate levied by the county and by the local authority combined exceed that amount. In the discussion on the Board of Education Bill last year the denominational question was not altogether excluded. It did not, however, I am happy to say, in relation to that Bill give rise to any very serious difficulty. I wish that might also be the case in regard to the present Bill, but such questions cannot be avoided by simply ignoring them, and we consider it necessary to state clearly in what way these difficulties may arise and how it is proposed to meet them. The Technical Instruction Act of 1889 contains certain instructions on the grants in aid to denominational institutions. The first of these was in the nature of a conscience clause. That appears to be perfectly reasonable, and has been maintained in the present Bill. The second was a provision of a rather remarkable character. I have never been able—the debate having been very imperfectly reported—to ascertain how it came to be introduced, nor what was its precise object. The provision was— No religious catechism or religious formulary which is distinctive of any particular denomination shall be taught at any school aided out of the local rate to a scholar attending only for the purposes of technical or manual instruction under this Act, and the times for prayer or religious worship, or for any lesson or series of lessons on a religious subject, shall be conveniently arranged for the purpose of allowing the withdrawal of such scholar therefrom. It will be seen that it is a kind of Cowper-Temple provision. But the Cowper-Temple clause applies to schools, while this applies to scholars. It appears to contemplate the existence of classes for purposes of technical or manual instruction only, which might be attached to certain denominational schools apart from the ordinary course of instruction in that school. The provision might be suitable in the case of such classes, but is manifestly inapplicable to the case of aid given by a public authority to secondary instruction in general. So far as I have ascertained, the provision has had very little effect in restricting the range of aid given by local authorities to denominational schools. The retention of this clause would, however, obviously be objected to as unduly limiting the discretion of the local authority in the choice of schools, the schools of a denominational character being in many cases the only institutions of the kind which it is possible for the local authority to aid. A fair objection might also be taken to it as creating invidious objections between those numerous secondary schools which in some form give religious instruction and those comparatively few schools which give no religious instruction at all. To apply this provision without amendment to the present Bill would have the effect of making absolute nonsense of the provision. It would read, with the necessary correction— No religious catechism or religious formulary which is distinctive of any particular denomination shall be taught at any school aided out of the local rate to a scholar attending only for the purposes of secondary general education. For what other purpose could a scholar-attend these schools? Under the circumstances, and having regard to the very small effect which the clause has hitherto had, having been, as we suppose, in some way or another evaded by those whom its action was intended to restrain, we propose, while leaving the provision in force in the Technical Instruction Act, to replace it as regards the present Bill by a provision simply prohibiting aid to any school in respect of the religious instruction given therein. I will defer any further statement with respect to this Bill to another stage. I have, of course, at this advanced stage of the session very little hope that a Bill which may raise a considerable amount of controversy can pass into law in the present session. For one reason I regret this, because I think it is extremely desirable that as soon as possible the line of demarcation to which I have referred between elementary and secondary education should be drawn, and it should be understood what is the character of the education which the school boards can legitimately provide, and of that which ought to be provided by other local authorities. On the other hand, we have found considerable advantage from discussion in the country on the Bill which I introduced the year before last, and I hope that a similar result may follow if this Bill is not passed in the present session. At all events, I hope we shall have some discussion in this House, and I propose, therefore, as soon as may be, to move its Second Heading. I hope it may be convenient to do so within a week or ten days; but, of course, in the matter of time I shall be glad to consult the convenience of your Lordships. I have now only to ask leave to introduce the Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be read a first time."—(The Duke of Devonshire.)


My Lords, I think it would be far better to postpone any serious discussion of the Bill until we have it in our hands. It is only fair to the noble Duke, however, to say that I think the arrangement of offices, as far as I can understand the matter, is a very great improvement on the plan which he laid before us last year. With regard to the provisions of the Bill, I should not like to express any opinion at present. I do not at all mean by that to express, in a side way, any unfavourable opinion. The matter is one of great importance, and I think we should have time to consider all the clauses of the Bill. I should suggest to the noble Duke that ten days or a fortnight would not be too long to give your Lordships for an examination of the Bill.

Bill to make better provision for enabling county councils and other local authorities to aid forms of education not being elementary—presented by the Lord President (D. Devonshire); read 1a; and to be printed. (No. 135.)